Flying in the history books


An all-female aircrew flew a C-27J Spartan transport plane in the Air Force 35 Squadron history books.

The training flight from RAAF Base Amberley on 24 January was the first time No. 35 Squadron had fielded an all-female aircrew in the unit’s 80-year history.

The aircraft also carried female non-aircrew from 35 Squadron, essential to keeping the unit’s fleet of 10 C-27Js ready to support operations.

The flight provided flying currency to the C-27J aircrew and ensured readiness to provide tactical airlift support to Defense wherever needed.

For the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Thea Margalit, the mission was a proud accomplishment.

“We were truly excited about this opportunity, showcasing not only the women of aviation in the Air Force, but also the women who work to ensure the success of our tasks every day,” said Flight Lieutenant Margalit. .

“Being first of all comes with great pride and I’m privileged to have flown (the) mission alongside Flight Lieutenant Emily Renshaw.

“Em and I met at the Australian Defense Force Academy in 2014 where we were teammates on the football pitch.

“We then took the flight course together, were posted to 35 Squadron together and today we fly the plane together.”

From left to right: Flight Lieutenant Lauren Townsend, co-pilot; Flight Lieutenant Thea Margalit, aircraft captain; Corporal Joanna Fletcher, loadmaster; Corporal Antonia Guterres, loadmaster; Corporal Tiana Heap, loadmaster; Flight Lieutenant Emily Renshaw, Aircraft Captain; and Flight Lieutenant Katherine Mitchell, aircraft captain.

Corporal Tiana Heap, the lead loadmaster on the historic flight, opted for the one-year “try before you buy” commitment, joining the Air Force’s Gap Year program fresh out of high school.

Protecting and securing the air base was her stepping stone to a successful career as a loadmaster, the aviation career she had always dreamed of.

“I never really thought an all-female flight would ever happen at the squadron; it was really cool to be a part of it,” Corporal Heap said.

The Air Force has previously flown all-female crew missions with aircraft such as the C-17A Globemaster III, the KC-30A multirole tanker transport, the F/A-18F Super Hornet, and the King Air 350.

No. 35 Squadron – colloquially known as “Wallaby Airlines” – was established in March 1942 and used to provide tactical airlift during wartime operations in New Guinea and Vietnam.

Equipped with the C-27J Spartan in 2015, the squadron has recently been heavily involved in delivering essential supplies to Coober Pedy after the area was cut off by flooding caused by heavy rainfall.

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